Some time back, I came across Michael Chiarello's toasted spice rub. It has since become a staple in my kitchen, one I employ handily for a variety of slow-roasted meats. Not only is it easy, but it fills the house with an incomparably enticing scent. Over the years, I've adapted it in various ways, adding a little more heat here, some aromatics there.
In this case, I've settled on a bit of cayenne and a dash of allspice. You can use most any type of chili powder you have on hand, but I like to add some ancho for its depth of flavor and ruddy hue. Combined with freshly toasted and ground fennel and coriander seeds, some black peppercorns, and cinnamon, the spices are rubbed liberally on the chicken before roasting, for a burnished, flavorful crust. But that's not all! The chicken goes in the oven with potato wedges and lemon halves, which cook in the rich, spice-laden jus. Roasting lemons is one of my favorite tricks—it takes the edge off their bitterness while leaving enough acidity to keep things bright and interesting. Here, they offer just the right zing squeezed on top of this comforting main course.
Give the chicken enough resting time before carving so you don't lose all the juices and end up with something dry and dull. In the meantime, I like to make a quick pan sauce, deglazing the browned bits with a bit of white wine. The result is an easy, fragrant meal that everyone from company to kids can love.